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Advocacy organizations are looking to open the state’s primaries to independent, third party voters

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

Some want to make PA primary elections open to independent and third party voters
(0:00 - 7:55)

Millions of voters in Pennsylvania will cast ballots in primary elections for governor, U.S. Senate, Congressional and state legislative seats in two weeks, but about 15% of registered voters won’t be able to because of the state’s closed primary system.

Ballot PA, a campaign to open up voting in the primaries to independents and voters not associated with the two major parties, is looking to change who can participate in primaries.

Such a change would require legislation to be passed in the state House and Senate, and SB 690 is currently under consideration to do just that. It would let non-major party voters select one ballot, Republican or Democrat, to vote upon in a primary election.

“This would open up the opportunity to cast a vote to close to a million and a half people, which I’ll remind your listeners, everybody pays for party primaries, but not everybody gets to participate,” says David Thornburgh, executive director of Ballot PA. “Some folks say that is taxation without representation like we've never seen, so it's a fair thing to do.”

Thornburgh says in states that have implemented such a system, turnout has increased across all elections.

“We have to believe that more people involved in the process is a good thing,” says Thornburgh.

Primary candidates lean on biographies to appeal to voters in Connor Lamb’s district
(8:00 - 15:56)

Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb is campaigning to stay in Washington D.C. but not in the House of Representatives: he’s running to replace retiring U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.

As for Lamb’s soon-to-be-vacant seat, three Republicans and two Democrats are seeking their parties’ nominations in the redrawn 17th House District. It includes Beaver County and parts of Allegheny and Butler counties.

“This is a swing district. It's typically rated as a toss up,” says WESA Government and Accountability Editor Chris Potter. “This is exactly the kind of district that Democrats would really like to hold on to.”

Kathy Coder, Jason Killmeyer and Jeremy Shaffer are all vying for the Republican nomination, although Potter says Shaffer shows every sign of being the frontrunner.

Chris Deluzio and Sean Meloy are running for the Democratic nominee, and both are leaning on their backgrounds to appeal to voters. Meloy is a political organizer and LGBTQ rights advocate, while Deluzio has a military background, similar to Lamb, and is portraying themselves as friendly to labor unions.

Last night POLITICO broke the news of a leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

Potter says although abortion rights has historically been a state more than a federal issue, it’s likely going to become an issue up and down the ticket.

“People really need to think very carefully about how they feel about this and how they want to vote on this and what kind of representation they want. Because we're talking about sort of fundamental existential rights for people, and abortion may just be the beginning.”

The Pens face off against the Rangers tonight in the first round of playoffs
(15:59 - 22:30)

The Penguins open the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in New York this evening against the Rangers. Although the Pens won their final regular season game Friday night at home, 5-3 over Columbus, the Penguins are not exactly on a hot streak entering the playoffs. The team had 15 wins and 15 losses in their final 30 games.

“So much in hockey, we talk about are you the hot team with the hot goaltender going into the playoffs? And it'd be hard to argue that the Penguins are playing their best hockey of the season. It would actually be a lot easier to argue the Penguins have played their worst hockey over the last month,” says Mike DeFabo, who covers the Penguins for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“They're a team driven by stars,” says DeFabo. “They're keeping Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby together for possibly what could be their last run. We'll see if they can make noise in this postseason.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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